We left Austin and headed west with a slight northerly jog . When you live somewhere as flat as South Florida, any change in elevation bigger than a few feet can be a little awe-inspiring and despite, a lot of flat, there’s also a lot of hills and mountains in western Texas.
Now, even in the humidity of Florida, I got through about a gallon of water a day. Out in the arid landscape of the southwest? I don’t think I was ever not thirsty. Which meant I found every rest stop and cactus large enough to pee behind between Austin and Van Horn.
Not a lot of food out that way either unless you want gas station burritos or roadside BBQ. Not a lot of vegetarian options. Luckily, we’d stopped at Whole Foods in Austin and picked up a softsided cooler (for $10) at a HEB just outside Austin, so had sandwiches for lunch at one of those rest stops. Seriously, if you’re not taking advantage of rest area picnic tables as a cheap place to gather and eat, your road trip is costing you too much.
Around Pecos, Texas, we wandered north to a ghost town named Toyah where we found an abandoned schoolhouse with a one-eyed owl hanging out in it.
We were supposed to camp at the KOA in Van Horn, Texas, but the husband decided just before we left that July in southwestern Texas was too hot for camping so we’d found Hotel El Capitan online. As we parked and carried our bags inside, it began to rain and by the time we’d showered off the road and walked down to dinner at the hotel restaurant, it was pouring and the streets were a shallow river. (Good thing the hotel had a restaurant!) It was quiet and the chef had no probably whipping up some off-menu vegetarian pasta for me with lots of veggies and marinara.
By the time we’d finished our dinner and drinks, the storms had passed, but there wasn’t really anything nearby to walk to. Van Horn is creepy and quaint, a kind of ghost-town-in-training where most of the businesses are chains and truck stops located just off exit servicing tourists, people passing across the border to the south, and truckers.
Overall, the hotel was a great choice. I’d totally recommend it over any of the chain places out by the highway. Charming architecture and courtyard. Oh, and breakfast the next morning had Texas-shaped waffles. Price-wise, Hotel El Capitan ran about $150 including taxes for a queen bed overlooking the courtyard. It was the third most expensive place we stayed during the trip, the most expensive being the night at Hotel San Jose in Austin and second being the Mission Valley Marriott we stayed in for his conference once in San Diego. Totally worth it.